Oh, take me back to the Russian island of Sakhalin – and its all too British weather

Plus, forget the green onesie, against all odds Nick Clegg's weekly radio phone-in on LBC is fast becoming must-listen

Share

In like a lion and out like a lamb or, as seems to be happening this year, the other way round. March has a habit of springing surprises, but it was still with some incredulity – and, yes, I admit, not a little smugness – that I watched the TV coverage of lorries stranded on the M23 and blizzards sweeping Scotland, from a hotel room overlooking the sun-lit shore of the eastern Mediterranean.

Scotland’s blizzards continue, along with the school closures, the transport disruption and everything else that comes in their wake. But what this year’s retreat of spring confirms, after the briefest of sightings at the start of the month, is that our weather really deserves to be a talking point. This is part of the thesis of a new book by Richard Mabey, with the charming, rather retro title Turned out Nice Again, which considers our preoccupation with the weather.

The point is, though, that our ability to make small talk – and even big conversation – about the weather would not be a mystery to most foreigners. They might ridicule it, but as they, and anyone who has lived outside the UK for any length of time, will cheerfully attest, British weather is peculiar. There are not many places in the world where outdoors is so volatile – where sun and showers alternate with such speed, where summer can suddenly become so cold, or winter become so warm, or a rainbow so summarily end a storm.

You probably learnt at school, as I did, that the British Isles have a “maritime climate”, but that was a bit of a simplification. We have a maritime climate that is also peculiar to our latitude, and which is additionally influenced by the Gulf Stream and the proximity of the Continent. You can sense a change the moment you cross the Channel. Even northern France and the Benelux countries are ever so slightly different from us; that bit more predictable, that bit drier. Travel farther east or across the Atlantic and you are soon in a full-on Continental climate.

On my travels, I’ve found very few places where the weather feels anything quite like our own. The Canadian Maritimes are like Scotland, but not quite. There’s some affinity with parts of Japan. But it is only in Sakhalin – the island where Russia’s tsars sent their prisoners – that I felt at home, weather-wise. Cool, damp, often foggy, and unpredictable, Sakhalin’s climate seems oh-so familiar. No wonder we talk about the weather; it has – as Mabey is hardly the first to observe – contributed, in a very elemental way to the national character. 

Yes, do call Nick Clegg

What with Chris Huhne and Lord Rennard, the Lib Dem leader has had his recent tribulations, not all of which were expunged by the victory at Eastleigh. But Nick Clegg risks having another success, with his weekly phone-in on LBC, which is fast becoming a must-listen.

So far, Clegg has vouchsafed, among much else, that he has a green Onesie (unworn), that he agonised about where to send his son to school, that he would not be visiting Huhne in prison. He comes across as informed, personable and relaxed. He makes headlines – invariably of the right sort. Here’s the Clegg whose pre-election debates came as such a revelation.

LBC boasts that this is the first time a Cabinet minister has had a regular radio slot – though Margaret Thatcher had an open invitation from Jimmy Young. But for the Deputy PM who, as the junior partner in a coalition, can struggle to get his message out, it’s a commendable move, and one that other politicians might emulate – if, that is, they have the guts. 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Metail Ltd: Business Development Manager for Asia Pacific

£35,000 - £40,000 based on experience : Metail Ltd: As a Business Development ...

Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Owner

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Lettings Manager - Chinese Speaking

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
All a-flutter: Marbled White Butterfly (Melanargia galathea) resting on a flower  

Lepidopterists rejoice – our finest butterfly month is almost here

Michael McCarthy
The memorial to the 7/7 bombing victims  

After the London bombings on July 7 I was dubbed a 'British Muslim' for the first time - suddenly my religious identity took centre stage

Sabbiyah Pervez
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate